A brackish foam recalls
those summers here, a slur of mica specks
and glimmerings the sea drags back,
spume tossed up like a froth of pearl. Wet rocks
and a wharf’s pilings lather in the slack
tide, where a few gulls brawl.
Beyond the pier, you stretched
full-length on a beach towel, propped on elbows, thumbing
a novel or a magazine.
It’s summer still. Waist deep, the ocean’s numbing
at first, and sun-blind as it’s always been,
the sand dune etched
and scalloped by crosswinds
that wrinkle the sea’s reflection. Cloud, birds, sun
warp and skew in a funhouse mirror
of tilting water; and the years have done
much the same trick—or else the past seems clearer,
as if perspective bends
the present out of shape,
poor copy of the mind’s pure paradigm.
For instance, who remembers the Hyatt
shading the sea oats down shore, or that slime
on the beached keels? Let me find a little quiet,
you said, and the seascape
has done just the opposite,
by God—more bathers, plunderers of shells
and shark’s teeth, couples linking hands.
More noisy kids with kites, buckets, and shovels.
Still, the sea doesn’t change much. Here are the sands
where you used to sit
watching the tide retreat—
or, anyway, they look the same. And all
the lovely houses built on sand echo those
summers, too, identical, receding into the distance, inching inland,
as the waves repeat, repeat.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 28 Number 5, on page 33
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